Aim: Interferon (IFN)-λ3 is known to have antiviral effects against various pathogens. Recently, it has been reported that the production of IFN-λ3 in colon cells after the administration of nucleotide analogs is expected to reduce hepatitis B surface antigen in chronic hepatitis B patients. Here, we aimed to prove the antiviral effects of IFN-λ3 on hepatitis B virus (HBV) by using an in vitro HBV production and infection system. Methods: We used HepG2.2.15-derived HBV as an inoculum and the replication-competent molecular clone of HBV as a replication model. Results: By administering IFN-λ3 to HepG2 cells transfected with the HBV molecular clone, the production of hepatitis B surface antigen and hepatitis B core-related antigen was reduced dose-dependently. IFN-λ3 treatment also reduced the number of HBV-positive cells and the synthesis of covalently closed circular DNA after infection of HepG2.2.15-derived HBV to sodium taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide-transduced HepG2 cells. The inhibitory effect on HBV infection by IFN-λ3 was confirmed by using a recombinant a HBV reporter virus system. To elucidate the underlying mechanisms of the anti-HBV effect of IFN-λ3, we assessed the transcription of HBV RNA and the production of core-associated HBV DNA in HBV molecular clone-transfected HepG2 cells, and found that both parameters were reduced by IFN-λ3. Conclusions: We observed that the administration of IFN-λ3 inhibits HBV infection and the production of HBV proteins at the HBV RNA transcription level. This finding provides novel insight into the treatment of chronic hepatitis B patients with the administration or induction of IFN-λ3.
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